View Full Version : What to look for in the glass

01-09-2001, 19:23
Hello, Is there any truth to this?? I have heard that after your pour a drink
into a clear glass you are to swirl the drink around a look at how it comes
down the sides of the glass. Something about the oils in the grains or something
of higher proof products seem to drip back down into the glass in many smaller
little trickles and the lesser aged products seem to come down in bigger sheets.
Is there any truth in this or have I had to much to drink tonight. Creggor

01-09-2001, 21:30
The thin trickles are called "legs" and I think it's the alcohol content, not the barrel age, that makes the difference. I imagine we're both about to be educated on this...


01-10-2001, 14:09
I threw "legs of wine" into google, and got this:
which does a fairly poor job of describing the phenomenon, although
it does tell ya about widespread beliefs in the wine community.

Short explaination: much like "holding a bead" (old moonshiner's method
for measuring alcohol content - ask about it if you've never heard of it),
looking at the legs can give you an idea of alcohol content.
No legs = little alcohol. Number of legs somwhow correlates with
alcohol content, but I'm not quite sure if more legs means more
alcohol or less alcohol. If anyone cares, I can go mix up a few
ethanol/water solutions and figure it out.

Long explaination: a liquid will cling to the wall of a glass and rise
up the side to a height that balances the surface energies (or surface
tensions) of the liquid/air interface and the liquid/glass interface.
The liquid is happy to spread up the glass because it likes touching
glass, but on the other hand, when it spreads up, it also "touches"
more air, and it doesn't like touching the air very much.
An easy way to measure this is by just putting a drop of the liquid
on a flat piece of glass and looking at the shape. Very round drops =
not likely rise up the glass ; flatter drops = will rise up a glass.

A word about the air/liquid surface tension: Water has a high surface
tension (you can set a paperclip on water and it will set on the
surface), while ethanol (and ethanol/water solutions) have lower
surface tension. Thus ethanol (and ethanol/water solutions) will
rise higher up the side of a glass than pure water.

So what happens is that the low surface tension liquid (ethanol+water)
climbs the side of the glass. Ethanol evaporates faster than water, so
pretty soon, the amount of ethanol in solution is much less, and the
surface tension of the liquid goes up. Now all of the sudden, the liquid
doesn't want to climb so high on the glass, so it will spontaneously "de-wet"
in order to decrease the amount of liquid/glass interface. It bunches up
into "legs" just like water will bunch up into droplets on wax paper.

Since the phenomenon depends on having ethanol in solution (and the
ethanol evaporating), you can see how it'll only happen if there's
sufficient ethanol in solution. And de-wetting behavior is certainly
also dependent on ethanol concentration, and so (among other things)
ethanol concentration will determine the number of legs, and how they

Sometimes you can sit and watch the liquid climb up the wall, then de-wet
and crash down when the ethanol evaporates, then rise up again, and then
fall down again... three or four times per second.

Hope this was somewhat clear. Feel free to ask more and I'll tell ya more.